In the wee hours of the morning, we awoke, had a quick cup of coffee then departed for the airport. We were on our way to Ogle Airport then on to Port of Spain in Trinidad via Liat Airways. After a few days there, we would move on to Tobago, a smaller island nearby. These two islands are generally known as the pair, Trinidad and Tobago. What follows is an accounting of our travels to and around this new country. Included are our itineraries and costs for the 9 day-8 night trip in case anyone wants to follow our route.
We arrived in Piarcos Airport, commonly referred to as Port of Spain, about 7:30. Obviously the first thing we did was indulge in what Trinidad is famous for, their lauded doubles. A double is a deep fried roti, which is already fried flour and water, wrapped around a tasty pile of fried channa which are chickpeas. With a dash of pepper sauce, they taste exactly like you’d expect, delicious.
After a quick bite we set to the task of getting to the actual city Port of Spain. Our airbnb host, Ally, said we could take a taxi for around $30 US, $187.50 TT, or take the bus for $.64 US, $4 TT. We’d been advised that transportation in Trinidad was similar to that of Platform 9 3/4, if you don’t know exactly where to find what you’re looking for, you won’t get there. After more searching than should have been necessary we found the newsstand with a small sign selling bus tickets, bought a couple and we were on our way.
A bus ride, grocery shopping for the standard Peace Corps Volunteer’s meal of nut-butter and bread, and a walk later we made it to our hosts house. The travel, while slightly inconsistent and infuriatingly slow at times did give a nice feel of how Trinidadians move around normally. It allowed us to have a more authentic scenic route towards the lifestyle and daily lives of Trinidadians. Ally, the host, was on her way out with, I’m fairly convinced, a Czech spy named Ava on her way to Venezuela. Ava was very guarded on her reasons for traveling to Venezuela and if she’s reading this right now, I hope the spying is going well.
Kaylee and I napped for a few hours, it was almost noon, then we hit the streets to see what was up in POS. Ally lived very close to the main nightlife hub of POS, Ariapita Avenue. There were plenty of cool restaurants and bars on the strip. We found a bar that was open, had a few Caribs, went down the street for a gyro, went back to the bar for a few more Caribs then retired for the evening.
Christmas morning started with an adventure to Fort George at 8 AM. We ate our nut-butter and bread, as usual, packed our map and water, and headed out for the hike. The house we stayed in was centrally located, so we decided we would do the cheap athletic backpackers version to Fort George – even though TripAdvisors advised not to. Fort George was built during the 1800s on top of a hill to overlook Port of Spain for any possible invaders.
After 2.5 hours of hiking, with a steep uphill final mile we will always remember, we made it to the fort. Being Christmas Day, it was only us and the stray dogs that overlooked from the top of the hill. While we advise for other visitors to do the car route, the walk was well worth the view. We relaxed at the top for a short rain shower, ate lunch, took selfies that categorized us as “basic”, and tried our best to swallow the spectacular view of the city, luscious hills of rainforest, and turquoise ocean.
About late afternoon, we headed back to the city, with a much easier walk back being that it was all downhill. By the time we reached the city, our bread and nut-butter stomachs were ready for something new, so we searched for any sign of open restaurants in the ghost land of Christmas Day. Luckily we found a Chinese restaurant called, “Me Asia: Dim Sum” that happened to be open. While neither the staff nor menu were in English, the food looked (and tasted) delicious so we ordered beers, chicken feet, and dim sum to fill our tummies. After a pleasantly full meal, we retired back to the house by evening time, and relaxed for the rest of Christmas Day. A very merry Christmas indeed.
Note: Most places (and transportation) are closed the day of and after Christmas.
Our initial plan was to get to the Asa Wright Nature Center and do a tour of the place. It seemed nice online and all the brochures mentioned it as being a cool place to go. We mentioned it to Ally who immediately shot it down, it would be much too expensive to get there the day after Christmas if we could find someone to take us. Ally offered us an alternative, she was going birding down the coast and offered to take us with her then after that she was going to a late lunch and could drop us by the local mall and movie theater, Movie Towne. Excited by the prospect, we eagerly accepted and she delightedly drove us down the coast.
Our first stop was at the Hannuman statue. It’s a big statue of the Hindu monkey god and apparently it’s the biggest one outside of India at 85 feet tall. It was pretty cool and there was a small temple nearby that we walked around as well.
Our next stop was another Hindu site, the Temple By The Sea. The story is that a Hindu man wanted to build a temple but the local government wouldn’t give him the land to do so and even tore down some of his initial attempts. The man then started to build a temple in the ocean, dragging out rocks to form a foundation. He died before it was finished but by that time the government had come to its senses and finished it for him. The temple is also surrounded by broken pottery, which held the cremated remains of local Hindus that had been religiously disposed of in the sea near the temple. Ally said that successive governments had kept the place in good shape and there would be public outcry if it fell into disrepair.
A few more birding sights later we returned to Ally’s home and then we were off to Movie Towne! Movie Towne is like Giftland, Guyana’s mall, on steroids, I think that’s the best way to describe it. We were initially attracted to it by an ad in a tourism magazine stating they had a restaurant called Texas De Brazil and Kaylee said we had to go. It turned out to be a very fancy steakhouse and had very little to do with Texas.
We went to another, cheaper, restaurant then we went to the movie theater and saw Joy. Afterwards there was a concert by a local musician playing Christmas songs. We’d never heard any of them but the crowd was singing along so the guy must have been fairly popular. We stayed for a while then walked home fully satiated on a Red Velvet Cake Milkshake from Burger King.
The 27th played out to be our most relaxing – city touring day. We started off the morning by walking and relaxing in Port of Spain’s Botanical Gardens, as we sighed in awe over how clean of an environment it was with its lack of trash and beautifully managed landscape. We then walked through a few rain showers while touring outside of the “castle” and other nearby statues exhibiting the history of the city. We took more “basic” photos, looked around the performing arts theater, and ended at our long missed comfort zone of McDonald’s. While it was not a place I normally indulged in while living in America, it was the closest to home we could be. We indulged with eyes closed on the American food and smells associated with McD’s. After this, we traveled back to the house, where we relaxed until evening struck with a voyage for lamb gyros at a nearby street vendor. While we were responsible towards how money was spent, we agreed vacation was not to be spent on calorie count.
We lucked out on our last day in Trinidad as our incredible host, Ally, offered to take us with her (for free!) to Maracas Bay – a beautiful beach with turquoise ocean, mountainous views, and the famous “bake and shark”. The ride there was spectacular, and the beach had a light amount of people with wonderful weather. We spent the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean, eating shark and bake with Caribbean beers, and building a “StagMan Castle: a man’s sandcastle.” For foreigners of Caribbean beer- Stag’s logo is “a man’s beer.”) We headed back to Port of Spain in the early evening where we bathed, packed up, ate pizza at a local restaurant, and went on to our night flight to Tobago.
The morning was rife with frustration and a dash of motion sickness. We had intended to rent a car for our stay in Tobago but, unfortunately, someone who is totally blameless forgot his drivers license in Guyana. Luckily, our host, Tina was going to the airport that morning to pick up some more guests that were staying in the room above us. We hitched a ride down to the beach with her and arrived about 1030. Kaylee, sadly, had a touch of motion sickness so out next mission was to obtain some Dramamine colloquially known as Gravol, the brand name.
We walked up the street in search of a pharmacy. The first place we went to didn’t have any but said there was another pharmacy up the road by the Penny Saver, the local supermarket. What the clerk didn’t mention was it was about a half hour walk in the mid day sun.
One dehydrating walk with a new Trinidadian friend, Marlon, we made it to the next pharmacy. We asked for some Gravol and the staff were initially hesitant to sell it to us, but we were able to get some.
We went back to the beach and thought about going to Nylon Pool but decided against it since Kaylee wasn’t feeling too well. Then we just spent the rest of the day at the beach liming (drinking and relaxing).
About 5 I messaged Tina to get her address so we knew where to tell the taxi to take us. She messaged me right back saying to wait at the car park and she would be there to pick us up in 5 minutes. 5 minutes later, there she was with two other passengers in tow. We climbed in and learned these were the two other people that Tina had left that morning to get. Apparently Drew had made it on time but Megan had been delayed and had only arrived a little bit before I’d messaged Tina. They’d been driving by serendipitously and presto, free ride home.
We learned almost instantaneously that Drew and Megan were Peace Corps Volunteers as well. Drew was stationed in Grenada and Megan was in St. Vincent. What followed was a back and forth sussing out each others services and posts, typical volunteer chit chat. We ended up making dinner together later and going down to the shop for a few beers.
The night before, Tina had offered to take the four of us to Argyle Falls for $100 each. We talked about it and decided we would go. So that morning we all piled in Tina’s car and headed out
The falls were pretty cool. There were three separate drops into lush pools ripe for swimming in. We climbed the steep slopes as topping at every pool. At the tippy top we peered over the precipice and were rewarded with a fantastic view. We spent the early afternoon there then descended for a scenic drive home through the countryside.
Later that night the four of us traveled into Crown Point, the local hot spot, for a nice meal. We walked around for a little bit and didn’t see anything that really tickled our fancies. We went with the last resort, a gyro place. Gyros are actually really popular in T&T and I’m glad about that.
We took the gyros to a local bar, Jade Monkey, and ate and drank until the karaoke started. Drew and Megan had to leave since they had an early flight so we trundled home and off to bed following fond farewells from our newfound friends.
The last day of the year started with an early ride with Tiina, to her shop full of unique crafts and clothes from India, South America, and the Philippines. We walked to the nearby stadium where they do “Easter Goat Racing”, checked out a golf course we imagined playing on, and headed to another beautiful beach – Mt. Irvine, where we relaxed with German tourists for remainder of the day. From there we walked to a local supermarket to pick up REAL wine and REAL AMERICAN CHEESE (volunteers in developing countries – you know this is huge) to celebrate the incoming of the new year. Walked back to Tiina’s shop for a ride home, ate and drank merrily, and took a power nap until 11:30 PM like an elderly couple. We awoke in time for the countdown, which was followed by a local party blaring soca music from 11:30 PM until we left the next morning at 8:00 AM. A special yearly celebration for the neighborhood, with delicious corn soup, and a happy reminder that we “sure were lucky we took that nap before the music began.” We discussed how quickly the year had gone by, our gratitude for its lessons, and how we couldn’t believe our peace corps service was reaching its final quarter – that we would be going back to America with only 6 months left of service. With all that being said, we wish everyone a happy new year. May 2016 be your best year yet.
Traveled back to Guyana while reflecting on our joyous and budgeted trip…
Prices and Tips:
Total amount spent: ~$700 per person
Round trip tickets from Guyana to Trinidad: $268.63 (Prices go as low as $225- I paid extra for “security fees” incase of cancelled/delayed flight)
Baggage: free as we only brought carry-ons! 🙂
4 nights in Trinidad: $69
Round trip ticket to Tobago: $48
4 nights in Tobago: $89.50
Other expenses (Food, transportation, alcohol): $220
Our personal review: If you want to visit a “less-touristy” Caribbean island with cheap prices, we recommend visiting Trinidad and Tobago. It was a beautiful and interesting culture to explore with its industrial city of Trinidad and natural beauty of Tobago. We were advised many times on the island to come back for their prime time of Carnival, but also felt coming at a more calm time of the year was authentic and relaxing – as long as you can figure out the transportation. We also recommend the AirBnB people we stayed with (Ally in Trinidad and Tiina in Tobago) who hosted us for reasonable prices, made us feel at home, and gave us a true authentic experience of the islands.